In the 100 days since the voters of St. Louis County invested their trust and new financial resources in Metro through passage of Proposition A, the Agency has taken real and meaningful steps toward keeping its pledges to all of the residents of the St. Louis region, President and CEO Robert J. Baer said today.
More MetroBus stops and routes. Increased frequency for MetroLink trains. The Downtown Trolley and the Forest Park Shuttle. Realistic plans for more service restoration and expansion. New jobs. A no-nonsense budget.
In fact, the Agency is ahead of schedule. “We told the community we would complete service restoration in three phases through November, but we’re going to get it done in two phases by August 30 – three months ahead of schedule,” Baer said. “That’s the kind of service the new Metro is delivering and the kind of commitment we’ve made to the St. Louis region. In the 100 days since Proposition A passed on April 6, we’ve made real, measurable progress on many fronts. We’re keeping our promises and we’re delivering real results for the people of our bi-state area.”
Ray Friem, Metro’s Chief Operating Officer, pointed to implementing the first phase of service restoration on June 28 as the most obvious improvement since St. Louis County voters overwhelmingly passed the half-cent sales tax in Proposition A. Even though the revenue from Proposition A will not begin arriving until the fall, Metro made a number of important improvements, such as the permanent restoration of service to and in some cases expansion of 20 bus routes, as well as increasing MetroLink train frequency by 25 percent. By the end of July, Metro will be able to announce even more improvements to be made in the final round of service restoration on August 30.
Baer noted that Metro’s accomplishments in the last 100 days go beyond transit-service restoration. Among the important progress toward keeping Metro’s pledges to the people of St. Louis, he cited:
• Fiscal responsibility and transparent, efficient operations. Baer said Metro passed an austere budget for FY 2011 that includes reductions in expenditures, salary freezes, and only mission-critical hires. He also said several other financial changes are in the works to improve Metro’s immediate and long-term financial stability, such as restructuring one series of outstanding bonds and improving the security used on an outstanding lease transaction. “Metro is committed to demonstrating that we are a good steward of the public’s funds,” he said.
• New jobs. Baer said Metro is hiring 120 new operators and other support staff needed to restore service. But he said it is also important to note the other workers in the community who Metro is able to connect to their jobs.
• Customer service. Baer said service restoration is only part of Metro’s focus on customer service. He pointed to the construction of a pedestrian walkway that opened just before Fair St. Louis to provide a safer, more direct route for visitors to access the Gateway Arch grounds from Laclede’s Landing, through the Arch parking garage. “The pedestrian traffic through that walkway has been amazing,” he said. “It’s a real help for not only tourists unfamiliar with the riverfront, but also for everyone trying to reach the Arch grounds safely.”
• Forest Park Shuttle and the Downtown Trolley. Friem said these restored or expanded services are important to the entire region because they help attract tourism, as well as provide transportation to important destinations for everyone in the region. He noted that adding stops and more distance to the #99 Downtown Circulator and rebranding the service as the #99 Downtown Trolley also means that commuters from North, West and South St. Louis County now can better use public transit to get to downtown work locations east of 14th Street.
• Realistic and economically feasible plans for service expansion. Baer said that, as Metro promised, planning has begun on ways to expand bus service, possible new extensions for MetroLink, and innovative new transit services such as Bus Rapid Transit. He emphasized that no expansion, including for MetroLink, will be undertaken unless Metro has the financial resources and federal collaboration for construction and operation.
• Bringing federal grants and jobs to St. Louis. Baer said Metro is preparing to begin a two-year, comprehensive rehabilitation of the historic Eads Bridge with a $25 million in federal economic stimulus funds that also will provide approximately 800 jobs for the region. Metro also received almost $5 million in federal grants through Homeland Security in May for several safety and security projects. These are just two examples of attracting federal dollars to help the region improve its infrastructure and create jobs.
“We’re bringing a new spirit and a new energy to rebuilding and expanding the St. Louis region’s public-transit system,” Baer said. “In these first 100 days since April 6, Metro has kept its promises to our customers and to our community. That’s what St. Louis will continue to see as Metro focuses on moving the region forward through building a world-class public-transit system that helps attract economic development and quality jobs to the region.”